Smart school re-re-revisited

Today brought back some nostalgic moments when I had the chance to attend the inaugration of a new batch of 35 new rural smart schools. Despite the years that have gone by and the glitter of the smart schools have been glitzed by the cluster schools, PERMATA, sekolah berprestasi tinggi and now trust schools, I still believe the smart school is still the most comprehensive education system ever proposed in this country. I truly believe we should revisit the conceptual blueprint and revive, reengineered or rekayasa (as they call it now) and renew the concept. Most of the stuffs and ideals espoused in the cluster schools and the SBT were already embedded in the smart school blue print. No wonder 14 of the newly announced SBT are the pilot smart schools. Unfortunately only SK Seri Bintang Utara really made it a point to thrust forward the fact that they got to the point where they are now by virtue of being a smart school since 1999.


SKBU receiving SBT recognition

How I wish somebody would prod Datuk Seri Najib to visit one of the pilot schools – they were hatched during his tenure as the Education Minister. Maybe I should drop him a note on his Facebook. No doubt many of the schools have fallen by the wayside, technology wise, but the idea of schools being treated individually and given autonomy to determine their own direction within the six components (teaching and learning, management and administration, policies, human capital, technology and processes) of the schools were etched in the conceptual blueprint of the Smart school. In my opinion the smart schools suffer from perceptual problem. I dare to venture (on hindsight though) that using the word "smart" was a mistake, albeit it was the in thing at that time. The trouble is, people equate the word "smart" with computers and ICT. Coming along with a whole gamut of gizmos such as smart card, smart solution, smart chip, smart this and smart that and all that jazz, the other components of the smart schools got lost in the translation. ICT being an enabler is only a component of the school. The other five components drowned under the gushes of ICT sparklers. Bandied around as part of the MSC added fuel to the technology centric misconception. To rub salt to the wound, the pilot project was not implemented as per description in the blueprint and the concept requests for proposals (CRFP). They were serious cutouts such as the asessment systems, range of teaching learning materials, operating system variety, technology platforms variety, and business process reengineering. This is further compounded by the inability of the pilot team to come out with a measureable KPIs of the smart schools. It was discussed at many meetings and workshops but never came to fruition. Despite enormous effort by the post pilot team to change the perception, it was almost an impossible task. The damage has been done so to speak. People start asking questions such as where is ICT "smartness" in the smart school when they still had to wait for the jaga to open up the the school gate, students have to close the window panes when it rain, how come ordinary school achieved better academic results than the smart schools, what is so different about the smart schools? In actual fact each smart school should be uniquely managed by its own able managers with proper planning, local and international connections, caring teachers, active stakeholders participations, enabling policies, reengineered processes, creative and critical students taught according to their learning modalities, supported by a variety of teaching techniques and materials, etc.etc. And to enable all these the technology would come in. In the final analysis, maybe we should have branded the smart schools as "Bestari" schools. Bestari carry the meaning of not only smart but courteous and knowledgable. I cannot help feeling, had we had the kind of Ministry wide support ( with bai’ah baru, autonomy and all that jazz) that the SBT recieved today and proper line of authority, the success of the Bestari schools would have been accelarated. (Personally, I still believe the whole management of the smart school at the ministry level should be vested with the division that has a direct authority towards the State education department, district education departments and the schools unless we have a super efficient coordinating capabilities). I wish the new batch of the rural smart schools a huge dollop of luck. Gong Xi Fa Cai everyone.

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